Who will win the battle of the Bulls? (Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

Vettel needs to repeat the turn one pass on Webber he performed in Sepang

Vettel needs to repeat the turn one pass on Webber he performed in Sepang

Red Bull will naturally be thrilled at locking out the front row for the Spanish Grand Prix.

But they will also be concerned at how hard their drivers will push each other as the run to the first corner at Barcelona could decide who wins the race.

Start

Often in Spain the drivers on the pole sitter’s side of the grid enjoy the benefit of starting from the clean side of the track.

But Sebastian Vettel, who starts from second on the grid for the second year in a row in Barcelona, can take heart from Sergio Perez’s start from the same place in today’s GP2 race.

Perhaps thanks to rain washing the track clean this morning and levelling out the available grip, Perez easily drew alongside pole sitter Jules Bianchi and (after banging wheels with Dani Clos) got away into the lead.

The Red Bull drivers have swapped position on the opening laps of the last two Grands Prix. Webber will be especially keen not to surrender his lead to Vettel as he did at Sepang, when he couldn’t see Vettel lining up at a pass due to his outboard wing mirrors – devices which are now banned.

Webber may also have to worry about Lewis Hamilton, whose McLaren starts behind him on the favourable side of the grid. Hamilton’s F-duct may help him make a move on either or both of the Red Bulls as they reach the first corner.

But if he can’t do it then, he’s not likely to get another chance over the remaining 65 and three-quarter laps.

The narrow first corner with its tarmac and speed bumps by the inside kerb tends to invite first-corner crashes – again, see today’s GP2 race for an example and last year’s F1 race for examples.

If Adrian Sutil makes it as far as lap two it will be an improvement on his last two efforts at this circuit.

Strategy

Once again, all the drivers who qualified in the top ten used the soft tyres so that’s what they’ll be starting on.

The decision on when to pit and switch to the hard tyres will be determined by two things: whether they can make it to the end of the race on the next set of tyres they change to (not likely to be a problem) and what kind of traffic they’re going to come out in.

In dry races this year we’ve seen a domino effect to pit stop strategy. It begins with the drivers towards the back of the field who pit first in an effort to jump ahead of cars in front of them (enjoying quicker lap times on their new tyres).

The drivers they are racing for position then have to pit to ‘cover’ what their rivals are doing. That also frees up track position for drivers further ahead to drop into when they pit.

But this can present a dilemma to teams whose drivers are running closely together. It may be necessary to give their trailling driver his pit stop first in order to protect him from a rival who has pitted. But that could allow him to jump ahead of his team mate – something the leading driver would rightly feel aggrieved about.

Last year team tactics was a bone of contention as Jenson Button passed team mate Rubens Barrichello by using a different strategy. Even without refuelling, strategy could still be a problem at this race and others this year.

Outside the top ten drivers like Sutil and Pedro de la Rosa may stand to benefit from starting the race on hard tyres and running a longer first stint. If degradation is a problem on the soft tyres they could pick up quite a few places.

Rain again?

There is still a chance of rain during the race, McLaren and Red Bull being among the teams to have raised it as a possibility.

There has been intermittent rain in the area over the past few days. A shower was heading towards the GP2 race this afternoon but the clouds faded before it reached the track.

But rain doesn’t have to fall to play a role in the race. If the teams think rain is coming they’re more likely to postpone a pit stop. Those drivers contemplating starting on the hard tyres will be eager to see forecasts for rain in the second half of the race.

Not for the first time this year, Red Bull are staring at an open goal. For Webber, this is a race he simply has to win – not just to keep his team mate in check, but because after the last nine consecutive Spanish Grands Prix were won by the pole sitter it will reflect badly on him if he fails to convert pole to victory.

What’s your reading of the Spanish Grand Prix heading into the race? Who do you think will win? Post your thoughts below and join us for live comments during the Grand Prix starting from one hour before the race tomorrow.

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60 comments on Who will win the battle of the Bulls? (Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

  1. wasiF1 said on 9th May 2010, 2:51

    Turn 1 will be crucial. If Hamiton can get his car pass turn 1 then I think it will be tough for the Red Bulls to catch him until he makes a mistake or the car have a problem.But I still think that it will be Vettel- Webber & Hamilton will fight it out for the next two podium. Don’t think that Schumacher will be featuring on the podium.

  2. Senor Paz said on 9th May 2010, 3:03

    If the Red Bulls run away with the race it won’t be bad at all…

    Then we’ll have a race long, epic battle between Fernando and Lewis. I expect these two drivers to put it all on the line in the first couple of laps.

  3. Jason said on 9th May 2010, 5:18

    My last penny is on Vettel. Webber knocked down to second as usual, for a while, but I see Hamilton coming round him.

    Schumacher has made 3 good starts this season, passing as much as 2 cars on the start, so I hope he does the same, so if the Redbulls have their almost customary reliability issue, he will be there to pick up a piece or two. Rosberg not overtaken anyone so far this season, and I don’t see him doing that today.

  4. Mike said on 9th May 2010, 6:33

    I don’t think anyone will be able to touch the red bulls, which is unfortunate as the competition would be good.

    Webber should get the better start, Vettel is on the dirty side and Webber will probably have learnt from last time.

    I’m looking forward to what schumacher can do, my money is on nothing if the race is dry, just because with the current cars no one can “do” anything ever….

    Hopefully I’m proven wrong in that, because I think Schumacher is faster than his qually position suggests.

    Once again I expect Kubica to surprise, but maybe surprise isn’t the correct term if everyone thinks it…

    I hope Kobayashi does well, but I think, of the top ten, he is the most likely to make a mistake :(

  5. Dave the rave said on 9th May 2010, 6:34

    Well Webber is my man, but he never does well at starting, so i reckon that Seb will take the first corner followed by Fernando and Lewis………Sad ain’t it.

  6. The bottom line is – If Red Bull and their drivers don’t do anything out and out stupid, there’s no way anyone’s stopping them from a 2nd 1-2. The fight between the top 4 will be worth watching. That said, if its a dry race, then yaaaaawn.. we know what to expect. Somehow, I’ve come to secretly hate dry races after watching the last 3 GPs.. :o

  7. m0tion said on 9th May 2010, 9:14

    last time Webber was dominant was Germany, hope it is just another day in that same office.

    if it rains RBR need it to rain enough to run full wets. I am interested in whether we see more slipstreaming behind the stalling wings and whether the high downforce guys can get any opportunity out of it.

    nice to see prisonermonkeys and f1fan holding onto their opinions of Webber, it extends the pleasure ….

  8. silencer said on 9th May 2010, 9:51

    hopefully both red bull drivers won’t take out each other on the first corner at the start pf the race… otherwise kobayashi will sure banzai his way to the front

    really love to see how good will micheal schumacher perform with that upgrade W01; and how far can he leave rosberg behind.

    at the back end; it’s good of Lotus can attack Toro Rosso or williams.

    So. I think webber will taje first podium at catalunya, Vettel second and schumacher 3rd if both McLaren makes silly mistakes

  9. silencer said on 9th May 2010, 9:52

    oh boy several typo error there in my reply.. sorry people

  10. VXR said on 9th May 2010, 9:57

    RedBull’s are still hard on their tyres AFAIK. Possibly only able to do half as many laps on the softer tyre at a reasonable pace than the Ferrari’s can.

  11. VXR said on 9th May 2010, 10:02

    Some cars will have to ‘two stop’ if it’s dry.

  12. Well last year the driver who started 3rd led into the 1sr corner…

  13. BBT said on 9th May 2010, 10:56

    RBR – Mclaren
    Gap in quali 1st round was 1.116 sec
    Gap in spain 0.834.
    So its not all bad. Although Ferrari were closer.

  14. LotusMate said on 9th May 2010, 11:21

    Will see how Webber start the P1 in Barcelona..Don’t want him to be spoiled again like Sepang,if he fails again ,i can say he not deserve the P1 anymore…Anyhow,goodluck Webber…

  15. Alex said on 9th May 2010, 11:38

    Dilemma dilemma… As much as I want it to rain because that gives exiting races I also want a dry race to see how schumi will do.

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